Innovation

NASA teams with engineering, 3D printing companies for moon mission

NASA is partnering with Stratasys, PADT, and Lockheed Martin to create 100 3D printed parts for the Orion spacecraft, headed to the moon and beyond.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • Stratasys, Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies, and Lockheed Martin Space are joining forces to harness 3D printing for the creation of 100 production parts for NASA's Orion mission.
  • The use of 3D printing will cut the costs of spacecraft production and speed up the process.

3D printing is quickly taking over a number of different industries, but now it will make its way to space, joining astronauts on NASA's upcoming Orion deep-space spacecraft, which will go to the moon.

NASA will work with Stratasys, Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies (PADT), and Lockheed Martin Space to bring vital 3D printed parts to the spacecraft. Stratasys is providing the materials that will be used in the printer, namely their new Antero 800NA, a thermoplastic that that the company said "is ideally suited to meet NASA's requirements for heat and chemical resistance, along with the ability to withstand high mechanical loads."

The Orion spacecraft is slated to hold a test flight later this year, which will send an unmanned ship to the moon and beyond during a three-week. The spacecraft may also visit Mars, according to Stratasys.

SEE: 3D Printing: Benefits, trends, enterprise applications (Tech Pro Research)

"The following flight, EM-2, will also go near the Moon, but with astronauts on-board, a first since 1972 and will enable NASA to prepare for increasingly complex missions in deep space," according to a press release.

NASA plans to use more than 100 3D printed production parts on board—all of which will be engineered in cooperation with Lockheed Martin, Stratasys, and PADT.

"The demands of space travel require extremely high performance materials and the most rigorous manufacturing processes in the industry. Part integrity and repeatability are essential and must pass NASA's demanding testing and validation process," Scott Sevcik, vice president of manufacturing at Stratasys, said in the release.

Lockheed Martin Space said they hoped 3D printing would allow them to streamline the spaceship construction process, making it more quick and cost effective. They have already tested the feasibility of 3D-printed parts, and said they believe the technology will allow them, and other companies, the opportunity to mass-produce parts for future space travel.

"It's exciting to be a part of the Orion mission and Lockheed Martin's efforts to transition additive manufacturing from prototyping to production," Rey Chu, principal and co-owner of PADT, said in the release. "Additive manufacturing technology and materials have come a long way to become a full-fledged end-use manufacturing option."

Stratasys has been able to spread the use of 3D printing technology in the enterprise through partnerships in the fields of prosthetics, sports, and healthcare, helping companies print everything from bobsleds to functional models of human hearts and bones.

Also see

orion-docking-hatch-pekk-cover-photo40171.jpg

This 3D printed Orion docking hatch cover is made of Polyetherketoneketone (PEKK), an advanced thermoplastic with electro-static dissipative capabilities.

Image: Lockheed Martin

About Jonathan Greig

Jonathan Greig is a freelance journalist based in New York City. He recently returned to the United States after reporting from South Africa, Jordan, and Cambodia since 2013.

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